CHENNAI: The appellant authority of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on Wednesday refused to declare as ‘infructuous’ Sterlite’s appeal which challenged the board’s order rejecting the renewal of Consent to Operate, although the Tamil Nadu government has passed a GO to seal and permanently shut down the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi.
However, the authority felt it would also not be appropriate for it to hear the case in the wake of the recently passed GO and hence adjourned the case to July 10. “We feel it is not appropriate to hear the appeal and decide the issue at this juncture,” said Justice T Sudanthiram, chairman of the authority, alongside two technical members.
Earlier, TNPCB counsel Arvind Pandian filed an affidavit before the appellant authority in which the board has categorically requested the authority to dismiss Sterlite’s appeal. “Since the State government directed TNPCB on May 28 to seal the unit, these appeals will become otiose and infructuous. I submit the adjudication of the validity of a government order cannot be challenged before the appellate authority. The scope of the power of the appellate authority conferred under both Air Act and Water Act is limited to any order passed by the State board and such power of adjudication cannot travel any further. It is, therefore, prayed that this appellate authority may be pleased to render the appeals as infructuous and dismiss it as such and thus render justice,” the affidavit reads.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko mirrored the views of the board and said Sterlite’s appeal had become infructuous. However, Sterlite counsel argued that TNPCB’s closure order on May 23 and the GO of May 28 were based on the April 9 rejection order of the TNPCB, which is challenged before the authority. “The outcome of this appeal will have a bearing on the government’s decision. So, this appeal has to be kept open. The last para of the GO clearly says the government endorsed the closure direction of the TNPCB and issued directions to close the plant,” he said.
The Sterlite counsel also claimed that the Joint Chief Environmental Engineer’s (Tirunelveli) inspection of the unit on May 18-19, wherein he found that the unit was carrying out activities to resume its operation, was a cooked-up story. “No such inspection has happened,” counsel said and indicated that the Sterlite would be moving the High Court challenging the GO.
Meanwhile, Sterlite got support for unexpected quarters. One of the intervening petitioners Ramasubbu’s
counsel asked the authority to keep the appeal open. “Our prayer is to make Sterlite remove the copper slag dumped on riverside by a private party to whom the slag was sold by the company. If the appeal is rendered infructuous, I will lose my right to get justice,” he said.